Diana Der-Hovanessian, March 1, 2018

Diana Der-Hovanessian, accomplished poet, translator, and long-time President (champion!) of the New England Poetry Club, passed away on March 1, 2018 at home.

Diana, a New England-born poet, was twice a Fulbright professor of American Poetry and was author of more than 25 books of poetry and translations. She recieved awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Society of America, PEN/Columbia Translation Center, National Writers Union, Armenian Writers Union, Paterson Poetry Center, Prairie Schooner, American Scholar, and the Armenian Ministry of Culture. Her poems appeared in Agni, American Poetry Review, Ararat, CSM, Poetry, Partisan, Prairie Schooner, Nation, etc., and in anthologies such as Against Forgetting, Women on War, On Prejudice, Finding Home, Leading Contemporary Poets, Orpheus and Company, Identity Lessons, Voices of Conscience, Two Worlds Walking, etc. Among the several plays written by DDH, two (The Secret of Survival and Growing Up Armenian) were produced and in 1984 and 1985 traveled to many college campuses in the 80s telling the Armenian story with poetry and music.  After 1989, The Secret of Survival with Michael Kermoyan and later with Vahan Khanzadian was performed for earthquake relief benefits. She worked as a visiting poet and guest lecturer on American poetry, Armenian poetry in translation, and the literature of human rights at various universities here and abroad.

Diana served as President of the New England Poetry Club for over three decades. She stated the mission of the Club in the following way: “To expand poetry. To bring people into the art. To show off the best. To be a forum for an exchange of ideas.” We strive to honor her vision of the NEPC!

 

Diana Der-Hovanessian

May 21, 1934 – March 1, 2018

Selection of poems by Diana Der-Hovanessian

ANGEL IN SOMERVILLE

Once Sona gave me an angel. Or I should say
a drawing of one sprinkling stars
like snow, inscribing it, “Diana scattering
light.”  Not mother, not mommy, not mom —
she used my name.  I taped it to the door
of her old room and there it stayed until

it came to life today.  Walking in Somerville
I saw a woman in an empty parking lot
scattering crumbs St. Francis style
to swarming pigeons at her feet,
Sona’s angel strewing stars, chatting as regent,
angel, queen, — bag lady no more, but mother
feeding her children, dispensing grace.

 

SHIFTING THE SUN

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When you father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0ZCX41p2xE

SALT (published in AGNI)

http://www.bu.edu/agni/poetry/print/2002/56-der-hovanessian.html

Interview with Diana Der-Hovanessian by Doug Holder:

https://dougholder.blogspot.com/2018/03/interview-with-new-england-poetry-club.html

Biography: https://armenianweekly.com/2018/03/02/diana-der-hovanessian-dispensing-grace/

Obituary: http://www.giragosianfuneralhome.com/m/?p=memorial&id=2078443

Victor Howes, 1923-2018

With great sadness and a heavy heart, we say goodbye to Victor Howes. Victor passed away on January 1, 2018, at the age of 94. All who knew Victor remember his kindness and generosity, his good humor and his erudition.  He served many years on the Board of the New England Poetry Club welcoming new members and facilitating writing workshops. He regaled us with stories about the Club’s founders, Robert Frost and Amy Lowell, and members Ann Sexton and Robert Lowell, among others—he was the dear memory keeper for Club. Victor will be sorely missed.

 

RELIC

by Victor Howes, from Thoughts after Spenser: Collected Light Verse, 2017

 

I found a faded King, a King of Hearts,

Between the pages of a borrowed book,

A frayed, worn King, a played-out playing card,

Lost in the shuffle, hardly worth a look.

And with a flip, I flipped him on the face,

This player King, who by convention took

A player Queen, but fell to player Ace.

What glory now, without the servile pack,

The Jacks who followed suit, the cardboard crew

Who honored him? What hand had he been dealt

to live, outlive those other kings who knew

His rank, however keenly they had felt

His rivalry? They left before he came

To this sad pass. They knew it was a game.

Three poems from “The Nomenclature of Small Things” by Lynn Pedersen

Sheila Margaret Motton Book Award, selected by Jennifer Militello
Honorable mention: Lynn Pedersen, The Nomenclature of Small Things

 

The Birth of Superstition

It’s not hard to imagine: my ancestor—a dry season,
                    dust like chalk on her tongue—mixes
                                        spit with clay,

traces a river on rock. Next day: rain.

                                                                                Why shouldn’t she believe
                    in the power of rock and her own hand?

I carry this need for pattern and rule, to see connections
                    where there aren’t necessarily any.

                                                                      After my first miscarriage,
I cut out soda, cold cuts.

                    After the second, vacuuming and air travel.

After the third—it’s chalk and spit again. I circle rocks,
                    swim the icy river.

                                                  And when my son is born, he balances
the chemical equation that is this world.

                                                                                                    And logic?

Logic is my son’s kite, good so long as you have
                    wind, string,
                                                            something heavier than hope

                                                                                                    to tether you.

 

How to Speak Nineteenth Century

Forget about the nomenclature
of the moon: lunar impact craters, rilles; your voice
translated into fiber optics or beamed pinpoint to pinpoint
on the planet. Here, all words are spoken to someone’s face.
Earth. Seeds. Thresher. Plow. Timber’d.

                                                                                So unnerving, you say,
having to look someone that long in the eye, just speaking
your mind. Or too involved, in the first place,
the five-mile walk to your friend’s house,
your skirt catching on the field grass.

You need to know not hydrogen, oxygen, H2O, but
water: where to find it, how to dig
for it, how to keep a well from running dry.

Not chlorophyll and photosynthesis,
the word is harvest—the hard “t”
uncompromising as hunger—

sunup and sundown, light.
Forget meteorology, you need to know
bird migration, insect hatches, animal hibernation—
what the falling leaves tell you.
When the blossoms of the apple tree fall, plant corn. In short,

the world is still whole to you.
                                        Each molecule. Each syllable. Each grain.

 

At Forty

Pattern or absence of pattern, the way a jet flies
into blankness
yet leaves a clear trail, I expect time
to reveal an underdrawing,
hatching of shadows, some rough plan
visible through another spectrum of light.

          Once, at an ophthalmologist’s office,
through an accident of mirrors, I saw the interior
of my own eye, the retina’s
veins like roots or a web, and then again

ten years later, this time in an astronomy
book—galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters
of galaxies strung out
strands of a cosmic web, the redness
of that image, the light extending like roots
13 billion years in every direction.

          Michelangelo could see a figure
in a block of stone, waiting to be freed.
I want his vision when I look in a mirror,
his mathematical principles for depicting space,
his ability to translate three dimensions into stone.
First I’m in two dimensions, a photograph
glued to the glass; then three—I’m somewhere between
the glass and the background. All my houses, friends
come and gone. How would he sculpt me? How far out
of the stone have I come?

 

Lynn Pedersen
Lynn Pedersen is the author of The Nomenclature of Small Things (Carnegie Mellon) and the chapbooks Theories of Rain and Tiktaalik, Adieu. Her poems have appeared in New England Review, Ecotone, Southern Poetry Review, Slipstream and Nimrod. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, she lives in Atlanta.

Three poems from “Marvels of the Invisible” by Jenny Molberg

Sheila Margaret Motton Book Award, selected by Jennifer Militello
Honorable mention: Jenny Molberg, Marvels of the Invisible

 

Marvels of the Invisible

          With your new Microset Model I, you will discover marvels of the invisible.
—Instruction manual, 1950s

The night I find my father’s toy microscope
in the hospital-cold of the empty house,
I dream of him, a boy in 1964. He crosses the yard,
kneels beneath the sprawling live oak,
and fills his specimen jar with fire ants.
His father, in the garage, sings softly in German,
mounting the head of a deer shot
that winter; its antlers blossom like capillaries.
My father is six years old. The light
spills in as he bends over the microscope
and folds a single ant onto a plastic slide. The body,
almost sickening in its translucence,
curls into itself; the bright red thorax, close up,
is butterscotch. Pressed beneath the plastic,
the antennae shiver and are still.

Half a century later, my mother’s breasts
are removed. In the waiting room, my father
takes a pen from his white coat pocket,
and clicks open, and clicks closed.
When someone in the family asks
a question, he takes a walk. I go with him,
and we wind through orange-tiled hallways.
He shows me the room full of microscopes.
I imagine his eye, how it descends
like a dark blue planet,
and his breath as it clouds the lens.
He shows me the refrigerator
where they keep the malignant tissue.
He shows me the microtomes,
the biopsy needles, the organ baths.

In the recovery room, we listen
as my mother’s new systems of blood vessels
shush through a speaker in the room.
My father comes in quietly,
places a white orchid beside her bed.
The large white blossoms are hands
cupping the empty air. Suspended there
is everything that came before this:
the day my parents met,
the wedding, each of the three children
so different from the last. His hands,
that know, like breathing, every inch of her.
He matches his breath with hers,
as they do each night
in the slow river of a breathing house,
and beneath her skin, her blood blossoms.

 

Chrysalis

I want to see, somewhere,
the hot, cocooned unfolding
of metamorphosis. The caterpillars
are flown in from El Salvador,
or New Guinea, and inside
the dewed glass, shadows
of men in white coats cloak
the tic of emergent wings—
What of the future do you hold
inside yourself? See: if you take a scalpel
and puncture the chrysalis,
it will explode—yellow goo
of cells, burst cells, amino acids,
proteins, here a bit of gut,
here a bit of brain.

A thing builds a shell around itself,
dissolves, becomes another thing.
The way, when you are wrecked
with love, you take only what you need,
you, liquid version of yourself,
all heart cells and skin cells—
here a trough of heart,
here, gutter of liver, channel
of hearing or touch. What remains,
as with the caterpillar, is memory.
See, we melt entirely.

I have been a child, a lake, a glacier,
glacial pool, woman, river of woman,
another woman, an older one.
The oldest scientist asks, If we are all
creatures of transformation,
if we are never quite the same,
what are we
when we arrive at the moment of death?
It is easier to think in death
that I am me, but dying. See: 1668.
The Dutch naturalist Jan Swammerdam
dissects a caterpillar for Cosimo de Medici.
And though we now think
everything ends,
turns to soup, to river, to ash
and what’s passed is past, he unfolds
the white sides of the insect and reveals
two wing-buds, tucked
tight inside the skin.

Now, as I watch the knife
pierce the chrysalis,
a river of cells swelling through
and out, I remember
what my father once said,
that what you see is only a fraction
of what you can believe,
and against the edge of the chrysalis,
embryonic half-wings twitch
without a body, waiting
for their slow decay, and then
for the next body
that opens itself
to the risk of flight.

 

Matryoshka

1

When you take away the children
the mother is empty. Her round head
shrouded in red, her lips thick
and pursed, her cheeks rouged
with big circles of flush. And her eyes—
she is keeping her inside secret.
The matryoshka’s arms, creased
with plump, hug
a glossed rose. Sprigs
of cornflower and baby’s breath.
If you look closer, a thin line
cuts the rose. This is where
the mother is broken.

2

I have discovered the mother
inside the mother. Her eyes
are dark like mine. She doesn’t want
what is inside her. Her arms:
thin. Her collar: drab.
Her lashes: straight.
Her flower is not a rose. This mother
fits better in my hand. When I pull
her open, she creaks.

3

The last mother has no arms,
no dress, no collar.
But she is smiling.
She breaks willingly.
I twist her open
and find myself. Each mother
becomes my daughter and I become
each mother. I hold myself
in my hand. This is my secret—
I have seen how small
I can be. I will put
the wooden child back inside me.
And the woman inside me. And the woman
inside me. And the woman inside me.

 

Jenny Molberg
Jenny Molberg’s debut collection of poetry, Marvels of the Invisible, won the 2014 Berkshire Prize (Tupelo Press, 2017). Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Poetry International, Best New Poets, and other publications. She teaches at the University of Central Missouri and co-edits Pleiades.